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SOD dean candidate's focus: collaborative leadership, dentistry's future

Published on Monday, November 16, 2015

By: Alana Bowman

Published in News Stories on November 16, 2015

Dr. Janet Southerland is all about community, collaboration and 21st century dentistry.

The professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry spoke with students, faculty and staff Thursday night in a town hall meeting on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Southerland is one of two remaining candidates in the search for dean of the UMMC School of Dentistry.

She opened the meeting by describing the SOD as a “flagship for oral health care in the state of Mississippi as well as the region.” Southerland said she will endeavor to bring innovation and new ideas to the profession of dentistry and is enthusiastic about how technology should be incorporated into the education process to train “dentists of the future.” 

Topics that were brought up during the question and answer session included school culture, class size, accreditation, fundraising and RVUs, and Southerland addressed them all.

She categorized her leadership approach as collaborative and engaging. “I think that in order to get to the place you need to, you have to have a variety of people providing input,” said Southerland. “You have to ask the questions and give people the opportunity to provide ideas.”

Class size can be a hot topic when it comes to the School of Dentistry. Southerland feels that a larger class can better meet the needs of the state in terms of education, research and public health. The needs of the state are not strictly for the school to graduate clinicians, she said.

“There is a need to train a different cadre of providers,” said Southerland. “We need scholars and educators. We need researchers. We need a broad spectrum of individuals, and we are going to have to recruit different types of students to fill those roles.

Southerland said that before increasing class size, the first step must be to evaluate the infrastructure to ensure that the space, faculty and other resources are in place to support an increased student population.

When considering the value of faculty practice, Southerland said one must not overlook that UMMC is an educational institution. Teaching, service, research and other scholarly activity should be associated with the Relative Value Unit (RVU) - a measure of productivity - rather than revenue only. “If the only thing that is tied to an RVU is a dollar, you are going to get exactly what you're asking for.”

Southerland said she feels it's important for the SOD to have a seat at the table as part of the Medical Center administration.

“I think that if you are not at the table, you are not going to be heard. And if you are not in the room, nobody's going to miss you,” said Southerland. “It's very important that the school have a place at the table in the different committees where decisions are made about financing, about changing structures or revising policies and procedures. 

“When that happens, you get a much better result, a more robust response.”

To watch the full video of Dr. Southerland's town hall meeting, click here. To give feedback about this candidate, click here.